Food futuring in Timor-Leste

Recombinance, responsiveness, and relationality




Timor-Leste, Foodways, Relationality, Localness, Improvisation, Decolonization, Culinary Innovation


The pluralistic nature of food culture and food systems produces complex and blended realities for research, often prompting approaches that embrace mixed methods and cross-sector partner­ships. In parallel, calls for the decolonization of research methods have brought attention to the importance of relationality when working with local communities and traditional knowledge hold­ers. This article presents the process and outcomes of the Timor-Leste Food Innovators Exchange (TLFIX), a multifaceted initiative centered on the contemporary and historic foodways of Timor-Leste, including current challenges to individual health, cultural identity, and economic-ecological sustainability brought about by centuries of colo­nial and transnational influence. Conceived within an international development context, TLFIX aimed at building local empowerment, economic development, and social change. Methods included quantitative, qualitative, and material-based ap­proaches, including surveys, storytelling, and culi­nary innovation. As a “consulting academic” on the project, I contributed to the research design, coached team members on storytelling-as-method, and participated in a portion of the work. For the current text, I use the notions of recombinance, respon­siveness, and relationality to interpret our collective experience and to frame an example of carrying out mixed-method and mixed-participant work in com­plex food contexts. As a whole, this example illus­trates ways in which to leave space for improvisa­tion and emergence within food practice and scholarship.

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Author Biography

David Szanto, University of Ottawa / l’Université d’Ottawa

Faculty of Arts



How to Cite

Szanto, D. (2022). Food futuring in Timor-Leste: Recombinance, responsiveness, and relationality. Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development, 11(2), 89–111.